On Monday night, Tory Burch hosted her Spring/Summer 2024 runway show in the atrium of the Richard Gilder Center — a new, cave-like wing of the Natural History Museum designed by the Chicago-based architect, Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang. Upon entering the space, you can immediately understand why a creative mind would be drawn to it. Its rough, natural curves and peek-a-boo skylights and nooks make you feel like you’re on another planet, or back in the age when dinosaurs roamed this one. (New York architecture critic Justin Davidson described it as “High-Flintstonian,” which feels very apt.) On a recent visit myself, I instantly felt like a kid again. My imagination wandered as I discovered a different species of butterfly, or a huge Hadrosaur footprint around every corner. That night, Ialso happened to find Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Suki Waterhouse, Jeremy O. Harris, Chloe Fineman, Emma Roberts, and Tiffany Haddish sitting front row, equally in awe.
Located uptown, just off Central Park West, the setting seemed fitting enough for Burch, an uptown woman herself. But it was also a departure from her preppier, more straight-edge past in that the building is a bit strange, maybe even weird, to borrow a word from the brand’s own press release. To do a collection inspired by architecture also feels refreshingly sophisticated, or adult. Since turning to the twentieth century designer, Clare McCardell for inspiration a few seasons ago, Burch seems more interested in—or at least interested in sharing—her research and curiosity with us. In other words, she’s gotten a bit “nerdy,” as well, which I love. It makes you want to look more closely at her collections and unpack what’s going on.
The show opened with a deep blue blazer that shimmered like the night sky. It looked like something you might see at the Hayden Planetarium nearby, or what one might wear to a formal dinner aboard one of Space X’s rocket ships. Underneath, the model wore a micro-mini “goddess” skirt, which was loosely draped and twisted like a sculpture from antiquity. The look was accessorized with a curved orange handbag, molded to rest on the wearer’s hip, plus silver drop earrings of a similar shape, orange-tinted sunglasses that wrapped around the face, and flat shoes constructed entirely of round edges. With their organic, natural forms, each piece looked like it could have been dug up straight from the earth. They were also more aerodynamic than your average accessories, allowing you to theoretically move more easily through the world.
“This collection is designed to be lived in, to move with you, and to instill a sense of lightness and optimism,” wrote Burch in the show notes. “In a chaotic world, we thought about what ‘effortless’ means now. Clothing that frees up space in your mind.”
For Spring/Summer 2024, this translated to sculptural blazers and tunics with plunging, curved U-necks, (as opposed to V-necks), and slashed sleeves, which revealed a hint of skin and allowed for more movement. The shoulders of ladylike coats were also raised ever so slightly, as if to relieve the wearer of any burden. She made use of lightweight, malleable materials, including airy organza, nylon taffeta, and crochet. As models walked, embellishments like silver filament caught the light, and a coat and organza caftan covered with silver bells chimed softly with every step – a nod to the use of bells in meditation.
The final looks, which looked as though they had their own planetary rings, were more Jetsons than Flintstones, but overall, the effect was transportive.
Like the museum, the collection is worth exploring more closely. My favorite “weird” details were the cow-shaped earrings and necklaces, which added the right touch of humor and subversion—just because.